The Detox Detox

Maggie Hudspeth, RDN

Detox. One of the hottest words in the health industry right now.

We see it everywhere, in magazines, on food and beverage labels, and, of course, those celebrity endorsements on social media talking about the latest and greatest trends.

The reality of detoxes is that they are completely, 100%, not necessary to live a healthy life. In fact, they don’t really work…

Let’s hit the facts: What is a detox?

There are different kinds of detoxes out there. Some use herbal products or supplements to aid the body in cleansing out toxins. Others alternate between periods of fasting, followed by dietary restrictions of eating only fruits/vegetables and juices or teas. Being restricted by fasting and having only specific products or food does not sound like a fun way to live!

While the intention of a detox or cleanse is to help the body get rid of toxins, the truth is, this is the predominant role of the liver and kidneys. Remember when you were younger, and you would play in the sand box with a sifter to pick out all the big objects in the sand? Think of your body as the sandbox and your liver as the sifter. The main job of the liver is to filter our blood from our digestive tract before passing it along to the rest of our body. It also detoxifies any chemicals in our body, metabolizes drugs, and creates proteins for bodily functions, such a blood clotting.

People often speak so highly of detoxes because they report feeling more energized and focused after they “cleansed their body.” The truth is, they are feeling so great because, for a period of time, they were ingesting very little, if any, processed foods. During a detox, the restrictions on what you can and cannot eat result in lower sugar and fat content in the overall diet. The reason they feel so good is because they stuck to whole foods and better nutrients!

So what about the products that supposedly cleanse your body? When it comes down to it, just like many weight loss supplements on the market, there are two reasons these products are masked as successful. One, you’re drinking lots of water. Many of the supplements, or herbal teas, direct consumers to drink 1-2 glasses of water with their product. This can be done 2-4 times a day! That’s a lot of water, which can fill you up and make you not as hungry. All that water is increasing your hydration and filtering through your liver and kidneys, too. Hence, you’re paying for a product to drink water. The second reason is, again, being restricted on what you are eating means you are, most likely, sticking to whole foods and very few processed items.

Ever tried a detox and seen the scale drop several pounds in a few days? That’s definitely a possibility. Unfortunately, the bulk of your “weight loss” is water loss, not true fat loss, so you’ll likely see the scale back up within a few days.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty of detoxes, your liver takes the spotlight, and it’s free! You have everything you need to detox naturally. Without a liver, these cleanses might have a purpose, but with a liver, their only purpose is to increase the billions of dollars in the supplement industry. These crazy cleanses focus on what you can and cannot eat, while here at Noom, we focus on how you can eat your favorite foods! The sustainability of a cleanse lasts for maybe 7 days — tops! Changing your habits and lifestyle can last a lifetime.

Next time you see the word “detox” or “cleanse” on a product or program, ask yourself – what is this truly doing for my body? If the answer involves changing some of your eating habits for a few days, then put your wallet away! Instead, you can save time and energy by working to build sustainable habits that fit into your life, not by fitting your life into another plan. There are a lot of buzzwords floating around the health and wellness industry that can cause confusion. Before you ever participate in another fad diet or buy another weight loss supplement off the pharmacy’s shelf, do your research. If it sounds too good to be true, it very well just might be.